Come to think of it – it was DC’s Superman: The Movie way back in 1978 that started the superhero phenomenon in the first place. Then came Tim Burton’s Batman in the late 1980s and DC was on top of their game. Until the late 1990s when Marvel Comics changed the game by delivering hits after hits. DC did have a resurgence with Christopher Nolan’s Batman series but Marvel continued its domination with family-friendly flicks, instead of dark ones that not many seemed to enjoy. Until now when Shazam! came out and took Marvel’s most powerful superhero head on, and delivered.
After Wonder Woman and Aquaman, Shazam! is the third superhero flick from the house of DC that does well at the box office, mainly due to the fact that it targets the Marvel viewers, drops all the negativity around the characters and even introduce a couple of post-credit sequences, something DC once considered a ‘crime’ as it was a Marvel thing. With all these changes and of course the ouster of Zack Snyder, DC is back in the game and Shazam! is their way of delivering magic at the box office, literally!
If you didn’t know that Shazam! was the original Captain Marvel, if you had no idea how hard DC had to fight back for something that was once theirs, then this flick tells you all about the superhero whose alter ego is a kid, whose superpowers are limitless, who has a heart of Gold and wants to save the world. It revolves around a 14-year-old boy orphan named Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who is handpicked by a dying Wizard to become Shazam!, (Zachary Levi) the most powerful superhero in the world. All he has to do is to say the word Shazam! and Billy Batson’s transformation is complete into an adult Superman-like Shazam who is basically a kid at heart but that heart is full of desire to do something meaningful. Helped by his nerdy foster brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), Shazam! becomes all the more interesting when a Supervillain (Mark Strong) enters the scene to snatch his powers, just like he did with the wizard who created Shazam!
The best thing about Shazam! is the fact that it follows the pattern of the first ever Superhero flick Superman: The Movie and tells the makers that no matter how big the name, origin movies still matter to the audience. The film not only tracks the origin of the protagonist here but also the antagonist emphasizing on the age-old saying ‘the bigger the villain, the better the hero’. Just as the directors did in Wonder Woman and Aquaman, there is hardly any negativity here making it ideal for kids and adults alike. No one dies here like a parent or mentor and the array of jokes at repeated intervals relaxes the audience’s mood because Zachary Levi is hilarious even if he has superpowers that can help him take over the world. Just like the comic book did back in the day, kids will want to be Shazam! because he cares for his family, loves his ‘foster’ parents and wants to make a difference, which is something we all want to do as well.
And then there are the Special Effects in the movie that are now a trademark of a Superhero flick. Some of the mid-air action sequences remind you of Superman II where the Man of Steel battled aliens from Krypton led by General Zod who also wanted to take over the world. Shazam! can run faster than a speeding bullet, is more powerful than a locomotive, and can fly but it is how he discovers his powers and acclimatize with them that makes the film an interesting watch. Nobody but TV’s Chuck would have been able to play the character of an amateur superhero better and the more you praise Zachary Levi, the better. You would also not believe but it is David F. Sandberg’s first superhero flick and it seems that DC should hire new and rising filmmakers if it wants to challenge Marvel’s domination. With Shazam!, they have moved an inch closer to being a competition and one hopes that in coming days, they take giant strides and snatch back the position that was there since forever.